Faces of NextGen: Meet Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee, 41, Texas

What five words would you use to describe yourself? Energetic, passionate, motivating, inspiring, teacher’s heart.

Why genealogy? Why not genealogy? Of all the activities that I could do, nothing will last longer or have a greater impact than connecting my children’s hearts with those of their ancestors. There are lessons to learn from the tragedies and the triumphs as well as the wise or imprudent decisions. Only genealogy profiles these connections on such a deep level. Plus, sometimes you learn some hilarious situations along the way.

What’s the coolest discovery you’ve made? There are too many to name, so I’ll limit myself to three. With DNA testing, my circumstantial/inferential genealogy was proven correct! Oh, yeah. I have discovered more relations for my grandmother’s adopted line than she ever knew. I untangled a great-grandfather from his brother’s wife and discovered he had a second wife that only one side of the family understood well. And I also found out about a great-grandmother had a fiancé who died before she married my great-grandfather. The woman who encouraged the second match was the mother of the deceased fiancé!

What are you working on this week? That changes daily. I will either be giving back through indexing at FamilySearch, preparing a manuscript for publishing the stories of my ancestors, connecting with emails from DNA relatives matches, or just going where the hints lead me. Or, I’ll work on videos for the FamilyHistoryFanatics.com channel on YouTube.

What’s the number one secret to your success in genealogy? Patience! You have to laugh because I’m not a naturally patient person. I am easily distracted, so perhaps that helps me be patient. The discoveries of a Civil War ancestor that led me to discover his brothers and sister required patience. Patience for a photo request to be filled at Find A Grave. Patience for a Civil War Pension file to be scanned and sent to me. Patience for myself as I attempted one-name genealogy research for other Townsends in Franklin County, Ohio. Patience for the right time to take a DNA test. And that’s just one line. Every family line has a story of patience as I await the technology, time, or financial resources to catch up so I can make more discoveries.

What superpower would you want to help you uncover your family history? Time travel. Is that a superpower if it requires mechanical devices to access? I think this is every genealogist’s dream superpower. If that isn’t possible, it would be to read multiple foreign languages. I’d love to use the superpower to read German newspapers and church records to benefit my family and to learn other languages so I could serve my community through indexing or one-on-one family tree climbing.

What are we most likely to find you doing when you’re not researching family history? Raising my five superheroes or dating my husband. My family is my life. You might also find me reading a Regency England era romance novel.

Anything else you’d like to share? Family history is more than researching dead people. We have to preserve the stories of our living relatives and ourselves as well. I am a young mother, yet my father passed away after meeting only three of his grandchildren. His stories died with him, and so did his voice. When my youngest was two, my mother joined him in the grave the same year my last living grandparent died. The link to the past closed and I only have access to what I can find in “traditional” genealogical records. Preserving the living is the most important thing a genealogist can do. As time permits, finding more about the deceased relatives can increase.

The NextGen Genealogy Network is made up of young genealogists with diverse backgrounds, interests, and experiences. Faces of NextGen showcases a different member of our community each month. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming feature, simply complete our questionnaire and submit a selfie.